the guggenheim international exhibition, 1971, was the sixth (and last) in a series of invitational exhibitions established in 1956, designed to recognize significant achievements in the international contemporary art world.
although earlier internationals had no specific thematic focus, the 1971 exhibition, organized by assoc curators edward f fry and diane waldman, was consistent in its selection of works that spoke to the prevailing minimalist, post-minimalist and conceptual tendencies of the time. twenty-one artists from eight countries, the majority american, were invited to present works that responded to the display context of the exhibition-the challenging spaces of frank lloyd wright’s architecture. many created new site-specific works specifically for the show (duh?)
the mandate especially suited the artistic practice of daniel buren, the only french artist to be selected, who creates works in situ composed of 8.7cm wide vertical stripes. made in fabric, paper, tape or paint, buren’s stripes draw attention to the framework in which his art is displayed and critique the conditions that sustain it, whether political, social, cultural, economic, or aesthetic.
buren has described wright’s spiral building as a powerful vortex, designed to pull the viewer’s attention toward the center, thereby subordinating everything to the grandeur of the architecture itself and “banishing to the periphery what is exhibited on the ramps.” in his 1971 work the artist set out to challenge this situation by literally filling this void with a large banner of alternating white and blue stripes, on both recto and verso, with the two vertical, white edges painted in white (to lay claim to the fact that it was a three-dimensional painting, not a ready-made.)
although buren usually worked by himself, in this case he was obliged to engage in a dialogue with the museum about his intentions. he believed there was a strong risk his that his proposal for the museum’s central space-the most strategic place in the show, as he put it-would be rejected, and he was surprised when it wasn’t. however, ms. waldman, the curator who selected buren, apparently made it clear that she was uneasy with the installation and the impact it would have on the overall exhibition.
based on the plans provided to him by the guggenheim, buren fabricated the banner in his parents’ parisian apartment, his mother working on the sewing machine while he and his father manipulated the vast swaths of cloth in the tiny space. once it was finished the work was wrapped in brown paper and shipped to new york. but when it was hung the day before the exhibition opening, some of the participating artists demanded that the banner be withdrawn because it obstructed views of their installation. buren insisted that the “obstruction” claim was merely a pre-text, pointing out that works are not meant to be viewed across the width of the museum’s rotunda, a distance well over one hundred feet; that the ceiling and parapet themselves disrupted the views, and that the other artists in fact felt their works were diminished when placed beside buren’s banner because they were done in a scale proportionate to their own propositions, not the museum architecture. buren further noted that the installation by dan flavin, his most outspoken opponent, could be said to interfere with other works in the show, coloring them with the reflected light from its neon tubes. “besides” buren has stated “in any group show… works by different artists always interfere with one another. for better or worse, that is the rule of the game.”
– part two is next!
how could i have never heard about this?
please enjoy the passing time.
posted by matt olson